Rider Nation is Ready (2013 Pre-Season Grey Cup Preview)

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The Grey Cup will travel to one of the most loyal and loud fan bases in the CFL when they go to Regina in November. After last year’s celebration of the history of the Grey Cup with the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto the CFL will highlight what the league can be to a community. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are a team that represents the success a franchise can have in a community. They are engrained into the Saskatchewan psyche as there is no real choice of whether to be a fan of the Riders or not. A large part of this is the fact that there is no other professional team in the province. As a result of this Saskatchewan fans do not have many options on what to watch with a few CHL teams and one CFL team. This means that an entire province is behind the Roughriders and when it comes to pride there is none bigger in the CFL than in Regina. The fans get behind the Riders in massive numbers as they invade any city they play in with the Green outweighing the home teams colours in some places. The CFL will use the 101st Grey Cup as a showcase of what they wish every franchise had. Some franchises are close to the Riders with great fans that will travel anywhere to see their team. Fans of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are probably the closest as their passion can be seen this year when they will fill a stadium away from home in Guelph. There are also those teams that are still struggling to find their place among a larger sports world. The obvious example is the Toronto Argonauts who won the 100th Grey Cup and were the talk of the town for two weeks until they were completely forgotten. Every Grey Cup serves a purpose bigger than just naming the next champion as they try to showcase new stadiums or renovated stadiums or try to showcase a city. This time they will showcase a fan base and that fan base is hoping to see their home team make an appearance at home to hopefully win their 4th Grey Cup. It won’t be easy though as questions remain about the Riders that have yet to be answered and may not until the season begins. The Riders are not the only team to have a lot of unanswered questions though with plenty of teams moving into a new season with a bit of the unknown. This season in the CFL should be a great one as there are many teams that could have a breakout year or could completely collapse. It is a difficult season to predict with too many questions for every team to really say which team will be earning a trip to Regina in November. The defending champions saw an exodus of players making a repeat difficult. The Alouettes are going into the season with a new coach and system meaning they may find it difficult to continue their dominance. The Ti-Cats could have a season like last year or could show the talent that they have on their roster. The Blue Bombers look terrible but they may very well come back or could be as bad as they have shown in the preseason. In the west the BC Lions look good but a young receiving corps may give them problems. The Stampeders need some consistency at QB with an injury prone pivot that could sink their season. The Roughriders rebuilt but the moves may not be enough to give them another championship. The Eskimos are still looking for a QB and if the guys they brought in this year do not work out they may be far from a Grey Cup. All of the eight teams in the league are not slam dunks to win a Grey Cup which will only make for a great season with plenty of ups and downs to enjoy. The start of the season is here and as of right now everyone has a chance to win the Grey Cup with the 2013 season ready to get underway.

 

Western Division

CFL West

The Western Division has been dominated by the B.C. Lions in the last few years as they have won the division for the last two years. More than that, the Lions have won the division by dominating the competition in the CFL. They have been considered the best team in the league for the last two years and have won one Grey Cup in that time. They will be looking to continue dominating the league and hope to win another Grey Cup with Travis Lulay and a good defence leading the way. The only issue for them this year is that Arland Bruce III and Geroy Simon are gone leaving a young receiving corps that needs to step up this year. There hasn’t been a lot of movement in the West with many of the teams playing the same role and that is true for the Stampeders who have finished second in the last two years and made it to the Grey Cup last year. They made it so close last year and one could only think of how good they may have been if Drew Tate was their QB all season. He hopes to be this year after two injuries kept him out of the majority of the regular season and the Grey Cup game. The Roughriders have gone all in this year signing Geroy Simon and Ricky Foley in an attempt to win right now at home. The Riders are hoping that they have a season like the Argos, who loaded up last year and won the Grey Cup, and not Hamilton, who loaded up and missed the playoffs last year. Meanwhile the Eskimos are reeling from trading Ricky Ray in 2012 and are hoping they have found a replacement in Mike Reilly. If Reilly is a good replacement they could have a great bounce back and surprise everyone by finishing above last place. As with the whole league there are a lot of questions to be answered throughout the season but not a lot looks to be changing this year. The Lions still look like the best team while the Stamps are looking good with a healthy Drew Tate under centre. The Riders and the Eskimos could be fighting it out for third place and the last playoff spot with the rebuilt Riders likely to take it. After that it is up in the air in the playoffs as the hottest team leading into the playoffs could be the one to win the West and go to the Grey Cup.

 

Conference Semi-Finals:
Saskatchewan Roughriders 24 – 28 Calgary Stampeders
– The Riders are a rebuilt team and although the Stamps are good the Riders are better than last year and they will get the win taking advantage of a new passing attack that may rival the Canadian Air Force

Conference Finals:
B.C. Lions 31 – 27 Saskatchewan Roughriders
– The young Lions receiving corps and the new Riders receivers will have a duel as the defence will be the difference in this game and with these two teams the better defence is the BC Lions who will limit the Riders just enough to win

 

Eastern Division

CFL East

The East has had the reputation of being the lesser division but last year the champion would come out of the lesser division. The Toronto Argonauts were not the dominant team throughout the year but the team with a lot of new pieces began to gel at the right moment. They would begin to play like the team many expected and would take that momentum into the playoffs where they would win the 100th Grey Cup at home. Now with many of those Grey Cup pieces gone the Argos are not only trying to repeat but hoping to win the division. They will try to do this with a revamped defence and an offence that clicked at the right time last year. The Argos are hoping that they can end the dominance of the Montreal Alouettes who have been one of the most consistently good teams in the CFL. The Als will be moving into a new era though as Dan Hawkins takes over from Marc Trestman. They will try to continue their dominance in the East under their new head coach who needs to get used to a new league in a new country. The Tiger-Cats have had plenty of frustration with the Alouettes in the past but this year they are hoping to put it behind them. After a disappointing season in 2012 the Tiger-Cats would finish in last place in the East and would miss the playoffs. They are hoping that this year the pieces they added in 2012 can finally gel and bring them to the playoffs. Then there is the Blue bombers who had a terrible preseason leaving many to wonder if they can keep up with the other teams in the CFL. The Bombers may surprise everyone this year and put up a good fight but by the looks of it they could have a terrible season. The East is a mystery like the rest of the league as a lot of questions need to be answered before anything can be determined. The Argonauts seem confident that the losses they suffered will not affect them and with an offence that looks the same as last year and a few pieces added to fill the gaps they may be right. The Argos and Alouettes will battle for the top spot this year and it could be Toronto who takes the top spot. The Ti-Cats may be fighting their own battle for a playoff spot as the Bombers might not put up much of a challenge but they will still need to avoid losing out on the crossover again. When these teams make the playoffs it could be the team that has the least amount of questions that will represent the East in the 101st Grey Cup.

 

Conference Semi-Finals:
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 24 – 21 Montreal Alouettes
– The Ti-Cats were a team that was supposed to be much better last year and this year they will show what they were supposed to be last year as they will overcome the Alouettes who will not be the same team as they have been in the past

Conference Finals:
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31 – 28 Toronto Argonauts
– The QEW rivalry will be similar to the Western final as it will come down to which defence can stop both of these offences and with the Argonauts not having the same defence they did a year ago it could be the Ti-Cats who get the win

 

101st Grey Cup:
B.C. Lions 34 – 24 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
– The Lions are going into the season as a much more complete team than anyone else in the CFL and Travis Lulay will make the young receiving corps better rather than the reverse happening whereas the Ti-Cats will have a lot of talent but not enough to stop Lulay and the Lions

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